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Hanafin blocking development of ABA schools on basis of cost - Doherty

21 February, 2008

Sinn Féin Education Spokesperson Senator Pearse Doherty has claimed that the only logical reason for Education Minister Mary Hanafin's blocking of ABA schools is that she and her Department believe that providing ABA for all who need it will be far too costly.

Speaking in the Seanad today the Donegal Senator said, "Last week in the Dáil the Government voted down a motion that sought to ensure that the education needs of children with autism, including ABA, would be provided as of right. Some members on the Government side in the Oireachtas, while they did not support the Opposition motion, have spoken out in support of children and parents who need ABA education. This is to be welcomed and I hope it adds to the pressure on the Minister for Education Mary Hanafin and her Department to change their inflexible approach.

"The Government has provided funding for twelve ABA schools. These schools were established by parents when there was virtually no support from the State for the education of children with special needs. Now the Minister wants to close the door on the development of further ABA schools. To justify their position the Minister and her Department are trying to play down the proven benefits of ABA.

"Why has the Minister been blocking the development of more ABA schools? The need is there. The proven benefits of ABA are there. The trained teachers are there. The only logical explanation for the Minister's position is that she and her Department believe that providing ABA for all who need it will be far too costly.

"As well as the refusal to fund new ABA facilities we have a continuing shortage of speech and language therapists. Children are not getting the essential early diagnosis of their special needs. They are not getting the full range of special education and therapies that can make such a huge difference in their lives. As always it is the children of more disadvantaged families who lose out as those lucky enough to be born into more prosperous homes have a better chance of accessing these services privately. That is a scandal that should not be tolerated.

"The deployment of teachers should be based on the right of each individual pupil to have his or her special educational needs assessed and on the right of each pupil to the resources required to ensure that each can reach his or her full potential.

"The Government must allocate the resources required to meet the special needs and equal rights of all." ENDS

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